WVU pitches in on Oklahoma relief efforts
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- In the wake of Monday's deadly tornadoes that struck the Oklahoma City area, the Big 12 has both delayed the start and changed the format of this week's conference baseball tournament.
Randy Mazey couldn't care less. He and his West Virginia baseball team aren't even thinking much about games.
"Whether you win or lose,'' the first-year WVU coach said Tuesday, "it's like you're playing for somebody else now.''
In the case of the Mountaineers, the people they are playing for are the almost countless victims of Monday's storm, which went through the Oklahoma City suburbs and, at last count, had killed 24, left nearly 250 injured and many more homeless.
The Mountaineers were the first of the Big 12 teams to arrive in Oklahoma City for the league tournament. They played their final regular-season series about an hour north in Stillwater, Okla., and arrived in Oklahoma City on Sunday. The tournament was to begin today.
That meant the team was nearly right in the path of the tornadoes, which swept through the area Monday afternoon. Other less severe tornadoes rolled through the same area on Sunday and for many of the Mountaineers it was their first experience.
"Being from where they're from, most or our guys aren't used to tornadoes and can't appreciate the impact,'' Mazey said of a roster carved primarily from the East Coast. "But I think they can now because we saw it right there.''
The players and their hotel escaped any injury or damage, and as soon as it was apparent how serious the situation was on Monday, Mazey and the team began trying to help.
"As soon as we knew everybody was safe, we turned our attention to the victims. We were ready to load up the bus and go down there [Monday],'' said Mazey, who talked to police officials who advised them to stay away in order to cut down on the congestion. "We didn't want to get in anybody's way. So then we did what we could.''
So Monday night, the Mountaineers went to an area Wal-Mart and began loading up on items like clothing, shoes, flashlights and batteries. They left the store Monday night and on Tuesday afternoon were preparing to go to the area worst hit and get the supplies to relief agencies and, if they could, directly to families.
Some victims didn't have to wait that long. Mazey said that while the team was loading up shopping carts at Wal-Mart Monday night, displaced residents were there, too. In the case of one woman, whose home had been destroyed and who had temporarily lost her family, she was there to buy the same sort of items the team was getting.
The players directed her to the shopping carts full of items they had already bought and told her to take what she needed.
Meanwhile, the Big 12 Conference on Tuesday decided to delay the start of the tournament until Thursday and change the format from double-elimination to round-robin pool play.
West Virginia, which was seeded third and in a bracket with No. 6 Kansas, No. 7 TCU and No. 2 Oklahoma State, will now play those three teams on consecutive days, with each game beginning at 5 p.m. (EDT). The winner of that pool will then take on the winner of the other pool - No. 1 Kansas State, No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 5 Baylor and No. 8 Texas Tech - in the championship game at 2 p.m. Sunday.
All games are at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City.
With all that has gone on, Mazey said he finds it hard to think about baseball, so he's not. There is talk of donating proceeds from the tournament to the relief efforts.
"I like our chances. Our guys are motivated,'' Mazey said. "We're not playing for ourselves, we're playing for others. It's hard to tell what you can do when you have that kind of motivation.''
Musgrave was the only WVU player on the first team. Infielder Ryan McBroom and designated hitter Matt Frazer were named to the second team.
Kansas State's Brad Hill was named the league's coach of the year after the Wildcats won the league title - that despite Mazey leading a team unanimously picked to finish last to a third-place finish in his rookie year.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.